It’s no secret that a high school’s prestige can be greatly influenced by its athletic achievements. Students are recognized for their athletic ability through ceremonies, awards and admissions to colleges as early as the second year.
But what many schools haven’t realized is the stars on the stage in their own building.
Adele Guth, Hunter LaPlante, Marius Pearson and Morgan Zeidman all graduated from Shawnee High School in Medford last year. Each of them has gone through rigorous auditions and relentless training in the hope that their outstanding talent will be recognized. And the hard work of each of these talented students has paid off with their acceptance into musical theater programs with just 15 people in their senior year.
Although the performers’ lives may seem glittering and perfect at first glance, these four undoubtedly went to great lengths to secure their places at these colleges, and their hard work is far from over.
The application process for a musical theater major is quite different from the traditional route.
“You have to apply to at least 20 schools or more because they only take classes of about 12 to 20 people,” said Marius Pearson, who attends Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio.
Some students may even apply to as many as 30 schools in hopes of being accepted into just one.
“I applied academically to my schools; same process as everyone else… plus you have to submit pre-exams, which I started preparing for at the end of my sophomore year,” said Morgan Zeidman of Point Park University in Pittsburgh.
Pearson describes what these “prescreens” are: “You have to send in videos where you do a monologue, a dance, songs, and a wildcard designed to showcase a talent of your choosing.” A lot of work goes into each of these pieces, the that students will eventually submit to their schools.
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Once they’ve submitted their prescreens, there’s more to do. It’s just phase I of the rigorous application process. You must then be re-invited by the school to audition on campus.
“It was really nerve-wracking. I started in November and quit in February, so it’s been a long time that I felt I had to be perfect. It was two minutes that you’re based on,” Zeidman said.
Some students spend years preparing their auditions just for them to step into the room for just 90 seconds and be told they’ve heard enough. The entire process is based on both luck and talent, with even the most talented students being rejected by schools.
“By the end of your audition, you had to be prepared for them asking you to do something else or change something. I know I sang a song about killing a husband and they kept begging me to do it again with a smile on my face,” added Zeidman.
From submitting transcripts to filming prescreens to 90-second auditions and finally the potential for a crazy request, it’s clear this process takes guts and perseverance — just as much (or even more) than what’s on the soccer field can be seen.
Even though these students managed to put on bright smiles from their stressful auditions, that doesn’t mean they didn’t have problems.
Hunter LaPlante, who attends the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, described what hindered her most in her journey: “I feel like we’re always our own worst enemy, and this process has definitely helped me learn this.” to recognize fact. It is a grueling process and perfection simply cannot be achieved.”
LaPlante is not alone in feeling self-doubt.
“I mean, you have thousands of people auditioning for these schools and they only pick about 12. You feel discouraged when people around you tell you they passed their pre-exam or got into a school and you wonder if you are enough and if it’s worth it. You wonder if you chose the right career,” Pearson said.
“There have been times when I’ve heard a ‘no’ and based it on my talent or I was like, God, I’m not good enough, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this,” Zeidman said.
Self-doubt is among the many struggles performers face when deciding to pursue their passion.
Finding support has been difficult for Adele Guth, who is a student at Oklahoma City University.
“Not everyone supports the dream you have for yourself and you have to fight for what you want to do. There are also many instances where some people are more financially privileged and can afford many coaches, which not everyone can. These people can offer you a lot of support and that’s really important,” she said.
In Adele’s case, she didn’t have a college prep coach and so she lacked some of the support that others had.
Morgan shared what it was like to be so vulnerable in front of admissions directors and auditioners and then hear something you dreaded hearing. “You have to be so open about yourself and willing to do absolutely anything, talk about absolutely anything, even bring up trauma in those auditions, and then you say ‘no’.”
If this process is so grueling, then why? With all the reasons not to pursue this career, these students listed 10 reasons why they should. Their passion for art was overwhelming and it became abundantly clear that they were meant to be artists.
Hearing their stories and how music has guided them brought tears to my eyes. It’s a beautiful thing to devote yourself to your field the way these people do.
When asked why they decided to follow their passion for the performing arts, these were their answers:
“To put it simply, I chose this path in life because I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else in life. It’s my home And being without her would be like being without air,” LaPlante said.
Guth said, “Honestly, it boils down to not wanting to do anything with my life other than making art. I couldn’t do anything else with my life, I wouldn’t be happy. Singing is my greatest passion. Music was the only constant in my life.”
Zeidman said, “When I was little, I decided to do my first show. It was the first time I stopped worrying. I felt human again. I think I was born for it.”
“I feel like the visual and performing arts is something that you’re free to talk about, and I feel like it’s something that’s very much yours,” Pearson said.
But what got her through this process the most were those who supported her every step of the way.
“I couldn’t do this without my family taking me back and forth to auditions. But in a process like that, I was my own biggest supporter,” Guth said. “I had to show up for myself and move on. I had to remind myself that this is what I want for myself and I can’t let others stop me from achieving my goals.”
“I’ll say my mom was my biggest supporter, she literally drove me all over the Northeast auditioning for colleges,” Pearson said. “She always believed in me from the start. She was both my mom and dad because I didn’t have a dad in my life. She is the best person there is. I could not have done this process without my mother.
Zeidman also credits her mother. “She did everything. She packed my audition bag for me. She made sure I had everything and made sure my music was all label, she did everything for me. She traveled with me and is sometimes even returned to the same place with Connor, I can’t thank her enough for that.”
LaPlante said the family is the biggest supporter. “They always believed in me and it’s definitely an advantage to be around people who want to see you succeed and do what you love to do.”
Certainly these incredible individuals could not have succeeded without the support of themselves. It takes an enormous amount of strength to endure the plethora of self-doubt, months of auditioning, and everything in between.
With that amount of passion, I have no doubt that they will find success in all their endeavors. Congratulations Adele, Hunter, Marius and Morgan. They all deserve a standing ovation.
Nina Colella is a member of the Teen Takes Student Writing Committee and a senior at Shawnee High School. Her passions lie in both the sciences and the arts. While research satisfies their inquisitive mind and value of perspective, music and art fill them with a sense of lecherous wonder at the world artists convey. She hopes to educate and inform, with the goal of standing up for those who have been silenced or ignored.